Introducing Google Phone Service: Google Fi
So there I was, living in a world of 2 year service agreements and $81.42 monthly phone bills. Then, my business partner Kristen introduced me to a new option. A new player in the phone service market. Google. Among all that Google does, providing cell phone service is one of them (as of March of this year). The Google phone service is called Google Fi.
Check out the super transparent pricing.
The Problem with Phone Service Providers
Remember the days of calling your cell phone provider support line? “Press 1 for…” No, I need to speak to a human! Then once you do get to a human after a 3-15 minute hold, you’re speaking to Johnny except he doesn’t sound like a Johnny.
Let’s discuss the carriers. The premium players are: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T Mobile. I was a Verizon guy for a long time. But then a bad experience combined with a series of terrible support calls led me to switch. After my contract expired, I switched to Sprint. Sprint was great. I didn’t have stressful support calls at least but the network was not as strong.
May be nitpicking here… But, my other problem with the big carriers are their TV commercials. Each claims to have the biggest/fastest network. How can they each claim that? The whole thing doesn’t seem right to me.
Another issue I have with the big phone carriers is that I had to check my phone plan every 3-4 months. Maybe there is a new plan was better suited for me. On 2 occasions there was and I was able to get better service and/or save money.
Then you have the other providers like metroPCS. I can’t comment on those guys. Never used them, but I can’t see how their network can be as reliable given their small price tag.
Initially, the lack of competition in the phone game meant that big players could get away with bad customer support and high prices. This is how things used to be.
The Best Part About Google Cell Phone Service?
1. Straightforward pricing! $20/month for unlimited calling/text, $10/month/gig of data.
You only pay for the data you use! My phone bill starts at $30/month. If I have a heavy data month I pay for it, if the next month is light, I don’t. Simple. The way it should have been in the first place!
2. Stock Android operating system without the junk the phone carriers or phone manufacturers load into it. Experience Android the way Google meant you to experience it. When you receive your phone from the big carriers, typically, the device manufacturer will change the Android operating system a little bit. Then, the phone carrier will change it. All this extra stuff can slow down your phone.
3. Google uses WiFi calling using a network of prescreened WiFi networks. I was initially skeptical about WiFi calling. My old phone had this feature but I had to turn it off due to bad call quality.
Google Fi WiFi calling was a great experience. My first phone call was handled by WiFi and I kept asking the person on the other line about the voice quality. To my pleasant surprise it was positive. I was told I sounded great. Based on my past experience I was a bit skeptical so I kept asking and every time the answer was the same “sounds great”.
4. If no WiFi network is available your phone calls are routed on the Sprint and T Mobile network.
5. Your works in 120+ supported countries!
6. Lots of high quality public WiFi. Google created a tool to automatically connect to high quality hot spots.
7. Support from a real person! I launched this right from my phone.
The Cons About Google Fi
1. If Sprint and T Mobile have don’t have great reception in your neck of the woods you’re out of luck.
2. Also, the phone selection is limited. Two phones as of this writing, both Google (Nexus) phones: the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. Personally, I could care less about my phone as long as it does a decent job handling phone calls, emails, and its battery lasts at least a whole day. My Nexus 5P (made by LG) handles both tasks with flying colors.
3. Google Fi is new. It opened its doors to the public on 3/7/2016 after a 10 month trial. Hopefully Google doesn’t shut it down like some of its other projects (see Google Wave).
After all the research I decided to go for it. I am willing to take a chance on Google and their phone service. I went to the Google Fi website and ordered the service and a new phone. Of the their two phones I picked the Nexus 5 instead of the 6P. Why? Primarily because I don’t want a giant phone.
New Phone Arrives
Shortly after making the payment I received a FedEx tracking number and eagerly awaited my new phone. When my new phone arrived I was excited. Google, in my experience, does everything with top notch class. So I was looking forward to opening the packaging and going through the Google Fi onboarding experience.
First Things First
After opening the box I got a hold of the phone. It felt good. About the same size, shape and weight of my old phone (Samsung S5). The packaging was as I expected and hoped. Top notch. Everything fit together well and you could tell thought went into the engineering of the packaging experience. For example there was a tab under the phone to help get it out of its packaging cradle.
After opening the package and sorting the various components I started searching for “a get started guide”. After an insufficient and impatient ten second search I gave up and just turned the phone on. Would it even have enough battery juice to power up? It did. About 40%.
Setting Things Up
After starting the phone up, I was pleasantly surprised to see my “get started guide” right on the screen. Thank you Google for not making me think! Post script, I later found the written “get started guide”. It had the same instructions as the on screen. Post, post script, the instructions are also available on my Google Fi account page. With this in mind, I felt supported and surrounded by guidance and help.
Like a good techie, I followed the onscreen instructions. Early on, you have to insert the Sim chip into the phone. As a former Sprint customer, Sim chips are new. Following the onscreen instruction told me to use a tool provided to open the Sim card slot and insert the Sim card into the phone.
The only tricky part here was to insert the Sim chip correctly in the slot. After a minute I noticed that one of the Sim chip’s corners was diagonal. Sure enough, I matched the diagonal sides up with the slot holder. Note, Google did not point this out to me in the instructions.
Next, I inserted the card into the slot and followed the instructions. Pretty straightforward from this point. Enter your phone number. Reboot a bunch of times for the latest updates. No problem.
As the setup was coming to a close I received an onscreen message. I will be notified when the phone is be ready to use for phone calls. The phone needs time to switch over wireless carriers. Right as I dismissed this message a phone call came through on the new phone. Looks like everything is working.
Why Switch to Google Fi? Bottom Line
The answer for me was easy. New phone, better service, better pricing, clear/fair pricing. My two year contract was up and I needed a new phone. My old carrier was going to charge me $~25/month for two years. With my $81.42 monthly bill I was looking at paying north of $100 a month.
With Google Fi I’m able to get a new phone for $11/month with 0% financing. This is tacked onto my $30 monthly bill. The service is better since I get both Google WiFi calling network, Sprint, and T Mobile’s phone networks.
The price is better! I’m paying $20/month for unlimited calling/text and $10/month for 1 gig in data. If I happen to go over, I just pay an extra $10/month. My phone insurance also cost less (~$6/month). And I feel the pricing is fair. I don’t need to check regularly to make sure the pricing structure hasn’t changed and that I’m being taken advantage of.
Google created a phone network that is trying to cannibalize its data rates. Let me explain. They created a WiFi assistant that connects customers with public WiFi locations whenever possible. In effect, Google is lowering customers’ data usage, monthly bills and their own profits since WiFi calls and web surfing are free.
Oh, and my phone works all over the world! In over 120 countries. The monthly bill is sharp.
After a few days… The magic of the phone newness has worn off. It’s a phone, it’s nice. It does its job. I can make/answer phone calls, handle text messages, send/receive emails and surf the web. But the part that makes me think it was a great decision is the bill. I got a new phone, better service, for 39.07% less than what I was paying before. I am a happy Google phone service customer.
Also published on Medium.